Prominent architect calls for protection for the North East's post-war landmarks

Neil Taylor designed some of the North East's most renowned buildings and has called for buildings made in the 70s and 80s to be listed

Chester-le-Street Civic Centre was designed by Neil Taylor

A leading architect behind an empty civic centre and some of the region’s most prominent buildings last night called for the protection of post-war landmarks.

Neil Taylor, an influential partner in Killingworth-based Faulkner Brown who designed a string of structures across the North East including Jesmond Library in Newcastle, has urged ministers to give listed status to creations designed in the 1970s and 80s.

It comes as questions remain over the future of the Chester-le-Street Civic Centre which was abandoned at the end of October during a council restructure which saw the offices relocated.

The futuristic metal building won a number of architectural prizes after it was opened in 1982 to signalled a new era of “open government”.

Mr Taylor, a visiting professor at Newcastle University for 16 years, designed the building and last night said there should be more protection for architecture deemed to be “eyesores”. He said: “The Civic Centre was an internationally acclaimed building which was built at a time when local authorities were trying to re-define their roles in local government.

“Instead of being hostile to the customer it was meant to exhibit the work being done in a very contemporary building. It was a democratic view of public sector work.

“But these buildings are now under threat and there’s a danger that they may be torn down, despite their significance. There are buildings which have gone through a period and have all of sudden become less popular.”

He added: “There’s a case for listing buildings of that period - from the 60s, 70s and 80s - which set the standards of their day. If you look at Chester-le-Street, the Civic Centre put it on the map. I think it’s very concerning if a building of this stature is demolished.

“It’s still a very good, contemporary office, it works well, and it would be disturbing if we lost it. Personally I think it’s one of the finest buildings in the area.”

Mr Taylor pointed to plans in the late part of the 20th Century to demolish huge sections of Newcastle’s Grey St in the later half of the 20th Century.

The area is no regarded as one of the finest examples of architecture in the North East. It’s pointless having a building that can’t be used. They’ve still got to be able to fulfil a function.”

He added: “If you take Grey St in Newcastle and all the buildings on the Quayside. At one stage during the 60s and 70s the general feelings from society was that they should be demolished.

“Now people are very warm to Grey St. Imagine the city without it. And if you look at Newgate St, at one point it was incredibly neglected but now it;s thriving.”

Mr Taylor’s company, Faulkner Brown, are responsible for some of the region’s most prominent buildings. In the early 70s they designed the East Stand of St James’ Park - the stadium’s first seating stand - and Mr Taylor also helped create a string of Metro stops across the North East. Mr Taylor said: “A lot of the modern architecture has struggled to predict what the public want in terms of how they live.

“If you take the modernist ideals of people living in the 1920s to the 1960s there was a certain view of how people should live and the architecture reflected that.

“But in reality that wasn’t how the public wanted to live. It was all about living in the sky. In Britain it was never accepted - it worked in central London - but in places like Killingworth there were 5,000 flats demolished because they were never practical.

“If you look at how later on, from the 1940s to the 1960s there was a period after the war when people thought that things could change. It was a vanguard period and people had learnt the things that had gone wrong. If you take the Byker Wall for example, it’s contemporary and modern. It addresses the social needs of people by creating space and a sense of commonness.

“It has stood the test of time - while others have got it wrong. There are buildings that were interesting architecturally but were not really fit for function.

“In the 70s and 80s people learnt how to build fine, modern buildings that embodied what the people want. Buildings in that period were a massive success, including the Chester-le-Stree Civic Centre.

“There are always bad buildings but the 70s and 80s there were also very good buildings. Look at Jesmond library - that was built in a Georgian building which was the first 60s building to be listed. Now the community have jumped to save it.”

Faulkner Brown is one of the largest architecture firms in the region employing 100 designers.

Their work extends across the globe and they have recently won a contract to design two velodromes in Canada worth £300m and a £180m sport and leisure facility in France.


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